Engineers will soon be taking solar-powered showers in the street to interest people in new eco-technologies thanks to an ‘Ingenious’ grant from The Royal Academy of Engineering. The Bradford-based ‘Saving the Planet’ Roadshow has won over £28,000 as one of the Academy’s first round of awards to promote public engagement with engineering.

The Academy is today announcing 15 grants totalling £346,090 to public engagement projects all over the UK. The successful proposals range from using specially engineered art installations at the Dana Centre to stimulate discussion of the five senses to a Y Touring Theatre Company production to get teenagers and engineers to debate issues of privacy and surveillance. Glasgow University’s ‘Chips with Flair’ project will showcase images of the unseen and often beautiful electrical circuits in everyday objects like mobile phones.

Jodrell Bank Observatory will play host to a series of spectacular images, developed by artist Jem Finer working with expert engineers, projected onto the iconic Lovell telescope. These events will commemorate the 50th anniversary both of the dawn of the space age and of the telescope itself.

The By Design group will use their grant to present a series of schools lectures given jointly by an engineer together with an Olympic athlete to debate the impact and ethical implications of the latest technological developments in sporting equipment and environment. Meanwhile the Mikron Theatre Company’s production ‘Married to the job…’ will bring the work of Thomas Telford to life and debate who might be a modern equivalent.

“Engaging the public with engineering, and engineers with the public, is a key aim of the Academy’s Ingenious programme,” says Martin Earwicker, Chairman of the Ingenious grants panel and Director of the Science Museum. “The Ingenious Panel members were delighted by the high quality, originality and geographical spread of the bids. I am confident that the successful projects will be very effective in creating debate between professional engineers and the wider public.”

“People have taken the great Victorian engineers to their hearts – partly because they pioneered big, dramatic projects. "But we want to see contemporary engineers engaging in real discussion about the 21st century engineering challenges they are addressing.”

The 2007 Ingenious Grants

Energy Engineering - £33,720

Sarah Beacock of the Energy Institute leads this project to raise the profile of energy in the minds of young people via their teachers and key influencers, providing up-to-date information on careers in the energy industry and ideas for integrating energy into the school curriculum.

Contact: Sarah Beacock tel. 020 7467 7170

Saving the Planet – Eco Design Roadshow - £28,750

Jack Bradley and his colleagues at the University of Bradford plan to introduce emerging eco-technologies to the public and schoolchildren through workshops and street demonstrations in city centres – including taking solar-powered showers.

Contact: Jack Bradley tel. 01274 234545

A year of awareness: Unlocking the passion of the Engineers without Borders

UK University Societies - £15,400

Alice Brook and the Engineers without Borders UK team have a year-long programme of events designed to attract more young people into overseas development engineering and build a national movement of passionate and inspiring engineers who can engage the public with human development engineering.

Contact: Alice Brook tel. 01225 320600

National Museums Scotland: Building Bridges - £6,350

Rowan Brown leads a project to use bridge building to interest museum visitors in engineering in both a historical and contemporary context using a specially commissioned model of Thomas Telford’s Craigellachie Bridge, which will also be shown at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Contact: Rowan Brown tel. 0131 247 4256

Imagineering Schools Roadshow - £25,436

Dr Jonathan Corney of Heriot-Watt University is training some of his undergraduate and postgraduate students to run interactive activities in schools including haptic (touch-sensitive) computer interfaces and the PowerPod energy trailer. Jonathan thinks students will be more enthusiastic and effective in schools than ‘middle-aged academics’.

Contact: Dr Jonathan Corney tel. 0131 451 4381

Illuminate at Jodrell Bank - £37,000

Dr Alastair Gunn of the University of Manchester has commissioned artist Jem Finer to devise image installations to project onto the 5,000 square foot surface of the Lovell telescope in a series of spectacular public events starting in August 2007. The events provide a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the exploration of space, the engineering that made it possible and the technological advances it enabled.

Contact: Dr Alastair Gunn tel. 01477 571321

Chips with Flair - £8,350

Dr Jane Magill of the University of Glasgow plans to take the intriguing and often beautiful images of semiconductor devices to a wide audience in collaboration with an artist and film-maker. Exhibitions in public spaces will feature still and moving images showing how these tiny electrical circuits work but making them more approachable.

Contact: Dr Jane Magill tel. 0141 330 3093

Professional ethics training for professional engineers - £40,000

Dr Christopher Megone of the University of Leeds is developing a bespoke training package in engineering ethics for professional engineers – the importance of ethics training is now well recognised within the UK engineering industry. The package will also help to empower engineers to discuss ethical issues with the public.

Contact: Dr Christopher Megone tel. 0113 343 7888

Engineering Senses - £39,253

Katrina Nilsson at the Science Museum is developing a series of public events for adults at the Dana Centre, each exploring one of the five human senses and heightening awareness of the ubiquity of engineering in modern life. The first event in September 2007 will involve the audience in a specially commissioned soundscape evoking the seaside to show how acoustic engineering can model reality.

Contact: Katrina Nilsson tel. 020 7942 4832

Sport, Ethics and Engineering of the Olympic Games - £25,600

Geoff Parsons and the By Design Group are planning 17 schools lectures co-presented by an engineer together with an Olympic athlete to debate the effect of engineering and science on the modern Olympic Games. They will discuss the effects of advances in technology for both able bodied and disability athletes and how engineers have enabled the evolution of performances at the Olympic Games and also the ethical implications of recent advances in sporting equipment, infrastructure and buildings.

Contact: Geoff Parsons tel. 01827 316297

Married to the job… Thomas Telford and Engineering - £7,500

Richard Povall and the Mikron Theatre Company will tour a play to pubs, village halls and museums to commemorate 250 years since Thomas Telford’s birth. Celebrating Telford’s iconic bridges, canals and aquaducts, the play will also ask where the 21st century ‘Telfords’ are and even look for a little humour in hydraulic rams…

Contact: Richard Povall tel. 01484 843701

The Great Engineering Debate - £38,000

Partners in Innovation/SETPOINT West Yorkshire will bring together student teams from over 40 schools across Yorkshire and Humberside with their parents, teachers and local politicians to explore and celebrate everyday technology. They will also train ‘Engineering Champions’ in a programme developed with the Royal Air Force.

Contact: David Ross tel. 01274 841345

Engineering, Privacy and Surveillance: Theatre of Debate - £39,401

Nigel Townsend and the Y Touring Company are creating an online play – an hour-long theatre of debate audio programme that schools can download and use to explore the issues surrounding our developing surveillance society.

Contact: Nigel Townsend tel. 020 7520 3090

Individual grants

Gino Henry of RedR Cambridge receives £850 and Stephen Jones of Engineers without Borders receives £450 towards communication training to help them deliver public engagement programmes.

Notes for editors

  1. The Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious grants programme, funded by the Office of Science and Innovation within the DTI, offers funding to promote open debate and dialogue between citizens and engineers on engineering issues of public interest and concern.

    The Programme aims to encourage:

    Awareness: to raise public awareness of the rich diversity, nature and impact of engineering;

    Development: to provide engineers with learning and training opportunities in public engagement and to look at their work in a wider context; and

    Change: to encourage open debate and dialogue between citizens, engineers and policy makers on engineering issues of public interest and concern.
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering